Why can’t we program the internet? Today everything is programmable, your computer, your mobile phone and even your dish washer. The internet connects millions or even billions of programmable devices through routers and switches that are all programmable too, yet the internet itself is not programmable.


Researchers from Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, frustrated by this lack of flexibility of the internet and networks in general therefore developed a protocol called OpenFlow. With this protocol integrated in network hardware, it becomes possible to reprogram these devices to perform new tricks. Experiments have already shown that such technologies could dramatically reduce energy consumption by rerouting traffic and shutting down unused switches and routers or, on the other hand, speed up for instance video streaming by prioritizing data.


The Open Networking Foundation (ONF) has since been formed, grouping over 20 companies including Google, Facebook, Cisco and Verizon, with the intention of making open and programmable networks mainstream. Now the first products implementing the protocol are being announced. HP recently released updates to enable 16 of its switches in the 3500, 5400 and 8200 series to support OpenFlow technology and plans to extend support to additional products. Big Switch Networks has released an open-source package for building OpenFlow network architectures. Dubbed Floodlight and available under an Apache license, it implements an OpenFlow controller designed and built in Java.